It seems every man and his dog has been to Prague – except me. Until now! I finally took onboard the many recommendations I’ve had to visit the Czech capital, following promises of finding a beautiful old city filled with cheap beer (which, sadly, I don’t drink).
Our AirBnb studio apartment was just outside the Old Town, so after unpacking we headed into town to orient ourselves. Walking next to the river we passed the famous Dancing House and Charles Bridge, which seemed to always be rammed with tourists, although was lined with amazing statues.
The main square in Old Town is the hub of the city. It is overlooked by St Vitus Cathedral, which is free to go inside and features some impressive spires. I spent a long time admiring the intricate zodiac signs of the 600-year old Astronomical Clock which is also on the square, along with plenty of street food stalls. Just in front of the cathedral is an art gallery with Dali, Mucha and Warhol exhibitions on display. It was nice to take a break from the hustle and bustle outside, and we spent a couple of hours enjoying the artworks.
Even when you head away from the touristy areas and get lost down on the edge of the city, each street is still filled with beautiful old buildings and unusual statues. Prague is known as ‘the City of a Hundred Spires’ and it’s easy to see why – you can often see the black and gold spires of churches and the castle, which can be seen from quite a distance from its perch high above the city.
The castle itself is on the west side of the river, which you can cross over from Charles Bridge and meander up to through the town. There are also plenty of windy paths going up Petrín hill, taking you past the Memorial to the Victims of Communism and towards the rose gardens and observation tower overlooking the city. The castle complex is free to enter, though you have to pay to go inside the building itself; as it was so busy we left it to just exploring the grounds and admiring the view instead.
On the same side of the river is Kampa Park, nice for a walk next to the river, featuring some fun statues. We stopped by the John Lennon Wall but were slightly disappointed: the original mural is covered, and the layers of Lennon-inspired graffiti are difficult to read.
Whilst we didn’t go inside the castle, there are several churches which are free to go in, as well as the cathedral. We popped into the Klementinum St. Salvator Church, and wandered through the incredible graveyard of the Basilica of St Peter and St Paul.
On our first full day in the city, we managed to walk 18 miles exploring the Old Town and parks, so it’s nice to be off your feet for a bit! Although a typically touristy thing to do, taking out one of the many peddle boats on the river for an hour is a great way to escape the heat and check (Czech?) out the city from a different perspective (plus there’s plenty of cute ducklings to feed).
Outside of Old Town we headed across to Manifesto Market, made up of old shipping containers. While the drinks weren’t cheap, it was nice to sit in the shade and enjoy the music, and there’s plenty of different foods to choose from for a chilled lunch.
The National Museum is also outside of the centre; we didn’t go inside as they are having renovations and Tripadvisor reviews weren’t promising, but it’s a magnificent building to look at. Nearby we enjoyed brunch at a café that would be at home in a trendy London borough – with pancakes to die for.
We had heard mixed reviews about the Ice Pub, which is next to Charles Bridge, and decided to visit in the afternoon, when it was cheaper than in the evening and also a welcome break from the midday heat. For £7 you can stay for 20 minutes with a free drink, and was fun to go for the novelty of sitting on an ice throne while drinking from a glass made of ice. The main club is only open at night and, while more expensive, might be a good place to start a night out.
Something I particularly enjoyed was the food and drink, of which we had copious amounts. From the traditional chimney cakes (get one with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, divine) to beer tasting, Prague is filled with many restaurants, patisseries and pubs to choose from. The best meal out was actually at an Indian near the Old Town, although I would have settled for more pastries for dinner instead…